Being an opportunistic and often aggressive feeder a small percentage of coyotes have evolved into an urban predator/scavenger putting itself in direct conflict with humans and our pets. Processed foods such as pet food can attract and hold coyotes in an urban setting. When the food runs dry it’s not a stretch to understand that the next item on the menu is likely the pet if the animal is within reasonable risk to possible injury. To error on the side of caution always bring the pet food in before dark when possible.
Don’t think the allure to an urban coyote ends with the pet food. Our garbage is a constant draw for hungry coyotes that have overcome their fear just long enough to sneak in for a quick bite. If you look at the entire scenario as an ecosystem it would work much the same as in the wild. Garbage attracting rodents, attracting scavengers, attracting carnivores, etc. But this page is more about the basic diet of a coyote and since we can’t write about this state by state, we will focus regionally with some additions for similar prey species and foods.
An important and stable portion of a coyotes diet is deer. Regionally speaking whitetail deer. Deer are a large source and at times an easy source of food. Deer fall victim to a motor vehicle are the perfect plate for a scavenging predator like the coyote. Aging deer or weakened animals from a long persistent winter rank high on the menu. Newborn fawns in the spring provide a smaller but easy target as most often the doe, or mother deer, will vacate the area when the coyotes appear. Leaving her fawn to lay still in the forest and fend for itself until the danger has passed. Coyotes can easily take down a mature deer with enough pack members. Like any other predator there is a percentage where the risk of taking down the prey is weighed against the risk of injury just like that I spoke of with the pets in an urban setting. Regardless of how the coyote comes about the deer it serves it’s purpose as a top-shelf food substance to this crafty canine.
Rabbits are another source of quality food as in terms of their sheer numbers. It’s an all out foot race between life and death when the coyote and rabbit meet in the wild. Unfortunately for the rabbit if the safety of the rabbit hole isn’t nearby his chances of winning this race are very low. Especially when more than one coyote has picked up it’s trail. While the cottontail and snowshoe makeup the species regionally, the rabbit, or hare, is found in many forms across the states. That abundance and adaptability by the rabbit is key to the success of a growing coyote in many instances. In part this gives way to the rabbit in distress call that works so well to call in wild coyotes.
Rodents, reptiles, and amphibians, may be much smaller than the deer but their abundance and ease of physical control by the coyote put them at the top of the diet list. And where you find such critters as frogs, snakes, and mice, you will also find the insect world which can also fall into the diet range of a coyote. Grasshoppers, moths, and caterpillars, quickly become a walking snack when the dinner bell sounds in coyote world. If you haven’t realized the word opportunistic yet this should explain how far ranging a coyotes diet can expand.
When we look at many of these wintering upper mid-western states we find that the majority of prey animals remains relatively the same. While we can’t discount the fact that there are many more animals in this diet range simply listing them all could be endless.
Take for example squirrels, beaver, grouse, and wild turkeys. These all fall well within the range of the coyote. When we travel a bit further South some of these species are replaced with prairie dogs, wild hogs, different species of deer, and a host of poisonous critters that would be a detriment to the coyote. Yet they all fall well within the range of the coyote.
The key is the food. Just as in any healthy ecosystem you can find your way literally from the ground up starting with the insects leading all the way to the predators. Knowing the system you hunt and the health of the area can make the day when pursuing the wild coyote in Wisconsin and beyond.
You can discuss this information on our public coyote hunting forums or below in our comment area.